After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
Song For This Book: Love and Loss – The Honey Trees
For those of you who have been following this little blog of mine all summer, you’ve probably seen me posts about this book. I’ve been participating in a read along hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada on Goodreads, and slowly working my way through it all summer, giving some commentary along the way. Technically, I’m only supposed to be finishing it now, but I hate to leave books with less than fifty pages to go, so I just finished it last week. And since I already commented on the last few chapters, I’m giving you my full, spoiler free review for this one on the last week of the read along.
I went into this book not expecting to like it. It’s not something I would generally read, a little too dramatic and romantic for my tastes. Honestly, the only reason I kept coming back to it in the first place was because I adore the ocean. So when Simon & Schuster Canada offered to send me a copy so I could participate in the read-along, I figured I should give it a shot.
And I’m glad I did. I actually enjoyed this book more than I would have ever thought. It was overly dramatic and intense (I was a little off on the romantic idea), but it had a lot of redeeming qualities as well. It was a heavy story, but Stedman pulled it off beautifully, and handled some very sensitive and difficult topics in a lovely way.
The Good Points of The Light Between Oceans:
Perhaps a personal point more than a critical one, but if you’re homesick for the ocean, this book will take you right back.
So many books like to tell us things that are happening with the characters, rather than showing us. This book just shows us, and lets us draw our own conclusions about what is happening and what we think the characters should be doing. After far too many books that just tell us what’s happening, this was a breath of fresh air.
The Light Between Oceans is a gorgeous work of art. Even if you hate the characters and the story, you may find that you’ve fallen in love with Stedman’s writing style and how she handles some of her paragraphs. This alone makes me want to read more books by Stedman.
It is so easy to get emotionally invested in the characters. And I don’t necessarily mean in a positive way. I hated Isabel throughout, was increasingly frustrated by Tom, and annoyed by Hannah. But the fact that this book stirred up these feelings is not something to be overlooked. This isn’t something I get out of books often.
The Downsides of The Light Between Oceans:
With the exception of Lucy, I didn’t like any of the main characters. They were all awful, and had no idea how to handle the child, and they drove me crazy. And maybe this isn’t a bad thing (see above), but I would have liked it if there was an adult character I was rooting for.
I thought that the last 2-3 chapters were unnecessary, and didn’t add anything to the story. I think it would have been better if we’d been left to wonder what happened to Lucy and the others, rather than having every questions answered for us.
There were a few parts of the story that seemed unnecessary. I understand why we got a lot of background on Isabel’s family and such, but it could have been left out and would have had no effect on the book.
All in all, I surprisingly enjoyed this book, and I think it’s earned a spot on my shelf. It’s a gorgeous story, and I need Stedman to write some more so I can escape into her writing once again. If you’re looking for a beautifully written story, and don’t mind a bit of heaviness, you should definitely check this one out.
Have you been participating in the read along, or have you read this in the past? Let me know if you agree, disagree, or whatever you thought in the comments below so we can chat about this!